An Endorsement

I’m very (very!) pleased to have discovered that my candidacy for mayor has been endorsed by the editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel.

I’ve gotten permission to reproduce the article, so here it is in full.

For what it’s worth: Thoughts on Cottage Grove’s mayoral race

The Cottage Grove Sentinel

Each election season, the Sentinel fields inquiries about whether or not the newspaper will be endorsing the candidates or measures that will appear on the ballot, and this fall has been no different.

With each inquiry, I respond that at larger newspapers and other publications (and indeed, in times of larger staff sizes at the Sentinel) an editorial board typically weighs the issues and candidates of the day and collectively determines a newspaper’s stance. These days, with a thin editorial staff and each member of the Sentinel team tasked with several jobs, it would be next to impossible to gather a group of staffers together for such a reason. As such, any endorsement from the Sentinel would, in effect, be a nod from this reporter/editor, a situation that has in the past made me reticent to offer my own opinion on our editorial page (it’s problematic, I’ve believed, to attempt to objectively report the news on page one, then uncover my own bias on page four.)

That said, I do believe that in my time here, I’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge and experience with the topic I’m about to weigh in on now (again, this is only my opinion) — the 2016 Cottage Grove mayoral race.

As key contributors to this community, I’ve had countless occasions and the honor to interact and converse with City Councilors Mike Fleck, Jake Boone and Jeff Gowing on the issues facing Cottage Grove and their possible solutions. And while I mean no disservice to the other two candidates and believe that each would showcase himself as a credit to this community should he be elected to its highest office, I’m going to tell you a bit about why I’m excited to support Jake Boone for Mayor.

In stature and demeanor, Jake Boone is a man that’s difficult to forget. Early on in his public life in Cottage Grove, it became easy to recognize that Jake is at once warm and engaging, extremely well spoken and pragmatic — qualities that have already and will continue to serve Cottage Grove well, whether or not he’s elected Mayor in November.

On countless issues that have appeared before the City Council, it has been obvious that Jake has delved with great seriousness into the miles of paperwork that often accompany Council deliberations. He shows up on Monday evenings with a well thought-out, well phrased and extremely persuasive viewpoint, and he’s not afraid to be the only one of seven who holds that opinion (his recent stance against the three-percent tax on recreational marijuana bears this out.) Still, he’s not against changing his mind when new evidence in the Council chambers makes it necessary, nor is he afraid to call out and condemn misinformation when he sees or hears it.

I’ve heard Jake described as a Libertarian, and while I’m thankfully, blissfully unaware of his politics on state or national issues, I would say that he’s always engaged in a search for the explicit problem that would be solved by any action of the Cottage Grove City Council. Failing to identify a clear problem, Boone simply does not support a potential solution. Thus, one can be assured that he does not pursue action for its own sake, and indeed maintains the best interest of this community and its members at heart. Jake also believes in inclusiveness, and he’s always the first to ask whether members of the public wish to weigh in on a particular issue. Jake has paid his dues and amassed an in-depth knowledge of the City’s systems and services, knowledge that he can immediately put to use if elected mayor, and at the Council’s Oct. 10 meeting, he announced that he’s pursuing a degree in public policy at the University of Oregon that can only add to his resume.

These qualities have served Boone well and are desirable in a City Councilor, though of course, this is the Mayor’s seat we’re talking about. Being Mayor of Cottage Grove often means being the first point of contact with community members and business owners, with visitors, representatives of outside agencies and other elected officials — in short, it’s about being Cottage Grove’s most outspoken (yet professional) fan, and I can say without hesitation that there’s no one in this community I’d rather have as the face of Cottage Grove than Jake Boone. With no intention of disrespect to anyone who has held public office in this community, he’s probably the most impressive public servant I’ve observed in my decade in Cottage Grove.

I would support him for just about any public office, but in November, I’ll start by casting my vote for Jake Boone as our next Mayor.

As I am deeply uncomfortable with saying nice things about myself, I really appreciate it when someone else does so.  Especially if I’m not in earshot at the time.

Thank you, Jon!

Nostalgia for the past is NOT a policy position.

Apparently, for some, it needs to be pointed out: pining for something we don’t have, can’t have, and probably never again will have (e.g. a robust timber industry) does nothing to solve our problems; it just helps us to pretend they’re not important… right up until they come crashing down upon us.

Yes, Cottage Grove was stronger, economically, when we had a strong timber industry. But news flash, folks: it’s not coming back. We have to face that fact and move forward, or we’re going to stagnate and die… and Cottage Grove will, someday soon, be nothing more than a distant bedroom community for Eugene/Springfield.

If that’s what you want, of course, then you’re not going to want me as mayor. But here’s what I want. I want Cottage Grove to have an existence independent of the metro area. I want it to have a robust economy, which means diversification, so that one industry’s fall doesn’t lead to a localized recession. And that, in turn, means letting entrepreneurship among the citizenry thrive, without onerous and unnecessary regulation or top-down attempts by municipal government to pick economic winners and losers.

We can complain about losing the past, or we can start focusing on building the future. Only one of those options will lead to anything good happening.

Come with me, and let’s try to help Cottage Grove step forward into the next century, instead of throwing chains over it in a doomed effort to keep it in the last.

A Few of My Objectives

Since I’m running for mayor, I reckon it’s probably pretty important that I give you some sort of idea as to what I want to accomplish, should I be voted in.  So in this post, I’ll tell you about a few of the things I’d like to do.  There are more than these, of course, but I’ve gotta start somewhere.

Please note that not only does my Standard Disclaimer apply, but also that as just one member of a council of seven, my election as mayor doesn’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get any of this stuff done; I’ve still only got one vote.  Still, this is what I’m going to attempt:

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure.  Not the most exciting topic, generally, but our aging pipes, streets, sidewalks, and other physical bits of the city are going to be consuming a great deal of our local tax revenue for the foreseeable future, just to keep services at the same level they are now.  As this is one of the rock-bottom basic things a city needs to provide, I’ll be prioritizing catching up with desperately needed maintenance over other uses of municipal funds.

Quarterly Town Hall Meetings.  If you’ve been to a City Council meeting, you may have seen the formal and somewhat off-putting procedure used for citizens to address the Council.  While some of that formality is necessary to keep things from devolving into a filibustering contest, there’s no reason we can’t also have occasional informal meetings, where citizens can get some real dialogue in with the mayor, councilors, and staff.  There wouldn’t be any set agenda, so you wouldn’t be limited to comments about a specific topic.  Instead, you could ask us about any topic you like.

Fiber to Every Property.  Don’t get me wrong; this will be a huge, expensive investment, and it’s not something that’s going to get done in six months.  However, it’s an investment that I think we’d be foolish not to make.  I would go so far as to predict a noticeable uptick in local entrepreneurial activity — and a concomitant increase in employment and municipal revenue — should we manage to make this happen.

City Code Reform.  Most of our ordinances are fine, but we’ve got at least a few laws on the books that are outdated, obsolete, or unconstitutional.  I’d like to do a full overhaul of the code to ensure that our ordinances are both reasonable and necessary.

Volunteer Constabulary.  Many forms of crime-fighting require trained, uniformed police officers, and if you want untrained volunteers to do that sort of thing, you can end up with some very bad outcomes (e.g. vigilantism).  However, there are some tasks currently being done by uniformed officers that could just as easily be done by volunteers… which frees up those uniformed officers to do the stuff that we need uniformed officers to do.  This can be a legal minefield, so it’s going to take a lot of work to make sure we do it right.  Still, if we’re careful, we should be able to come up with a way to help our small police force be more effective, even in the absence of increased revenue.

As always, I’m happy to answer questions about these topics and any other you may want to bring up .  After all, just because I haven’t mentioned a position on a given topic doesn’t mean I don’t have one, so if there’s an issue you’d like me to address, please let me know in the comments below!

Running for Mayor

IMG_1026This morning I filed the necessary forms to launch my candidacy for the position of mayor of Cottage Grove.  Since I was the first, and so far only, person to submit said paperwork, I can safely say that I’m absolutely the most popular of all the official candidates for that position!  Of course, I’m therefore also the least popular of all the official candidates for that position, but I figure I should concentrate on the positive, right?

So here’s a bit of municipal trivia for you (and the standard disclaimer, as always, still applies): some cities have what’s called a “mayor-council” form of government, where the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city, and makes lots of important decisions on his/her own.  Cottage Grove does not have this type of government.

Instead, Cottage Grove (along with all the other cities in Oregon with, I think, around three exceptions) has a “council-manager” form of government.  In this type of government, the mayor is almost a ceremonial title, with no particular power to bind or loose beyond that of any other council member.  The only real mayoral “superpowers” are a) access to a little tiny version of Theodore Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit“, b) the ability to call an emergency council meeting in the case of a natural disaster or similar, and c) the ability to singlehandedly place an issue on the council’s agenda (though not necessarily to get it passed nor even get a vote to take place).

While the mayor’s powers are pretty similar to those of any other councilor, there are a couple of key differences between the role of mayor versus that of councilor:

First, the mayor acts as a sort of ambassador for the City of Cottage Grove.  If any dignitaries from elsewhere happen to come to town, the mayor is the presumptive person who greets the dignitaries and asks them how their trip was, etc.  Likewise, the mayor gets to sign proclamations for things like Yak Shaving Day and Potato Awareness Month, and then hands copies out to the appropriate recipients with a hearty handshake and photo op.  There’s also some dog-and-pony-show stuff to help the City win project grants and the like.

Second, the mayor acts as the traffic light for council meetings.  The mayor holds the gavel, and it’s his/her job to make sure that everyone on the council gets a chance to speak on any given issue that comes before the body, that meetings aren’t derailed by extraneous chatter, and that nothing gets skipped over.  Some familiarity with parliamentary procedure can really come in handy here.

So with all that said, this November, those of you who reside within the city limits of Cottage Grove (and are registered voters) will get to decide whether or not I end up filling that role.

Later on, I’ll try to persuade you that I’m a good choice, but I think I’ve gone on long enough for one post.

In the meantime, though, if you just can’t wait, feel free to take to social media in order to thoughtfully compare me to Thomas Jefferson and/or Adolph Hitler.  ‘Tis the season, after all!

— Jake


Three Short Answers to Three Baseless Rumors

Rumors abound in our fair city, so I figured I should take a moment to knock down a trio of the most egregiously silly ones:

Q. Is Coiner Park going to be converted into a housing development?

A. No.  It’s a park, and there are no plans to change that.

Q. Did the city block an attempt by McMenamins’ to purchase the Armory?

A. No.  McMenamins’ never made any attempt to purchase the Armory.

Q. Is the City going to destroy the Opal Whiteley mural?

A. No.  It’s on private property, so even if the City wanted to, they couldn’t.

Heard any other rumors (plausible or otherwise)?  Ask about them in the comments!

Solicitation in a Nutshell

This is a post where I try to describe the law.  That means this is going to be, at best, a semi-coherent approximation of what the law actually says.  I’m not an attorney, so please don’t consider this legal advice.  The standard disclaimer, as always, applies.

I’m seeing a lot of consternation lately about aggressive solicitors, who ignore posted signs and try to sell you magazine subscriptions that never seem to actually show up and household cleansers that appear to be nothing more than some highly-diluted Windex.

Happily, the City of Cottage Grove has a good, strong, court-tested solicitation ordinance.  It defines “solicitation” as:

The entry onto real property used for residential purposes by a person for the purpose of communicating with an occupant of the property, whether the communication is verbal, visual or in writing.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty legalese-thick sentence, so let’s break it down a bit:

  • “The entry onto real property used for residential purposes” means coming to where you live.  It doesn’t cover businesses or parks or churches or anything like that; it only counts if they come to property where someone actually resides.
  • “For the purpose of communicating with an occupant of the property” means just what it says.  There’s no special exception for someone trying to sell you magazines, or telling you how you should vote, or asking for your cans and bottles, or trying to convert you to some religion or other.  If they want to communicate with you, it doesn’t matter what the communication is about (though obviously if they’re just knocking to warn you that your house is on fire or something, the court will probably consider that a pretty good excuse).
  • “Whether the communication is verbal, visual, or in writing” means that if they don’t knock on the door, but leave a pamphlet or door-hanger, that doesn’t matter; it still counts as solicitation.

So that’s what solicitation is.  Now, here are the situations in which solicitation can get somebody into trouble:

  • If they’re soliciting outside the hours of 9 AM to 8 PM (or 9 PM if it’s Daylight Saving Time), that’s a violation.
  • If they’re not soliciting themselves, but they’re directing other people to do so, and those other people are violating these rules, they’re in violation as well.
  • If they leave written materials on your property, and you’ve posted a “sign conforming to the requirements of Section 5.20.040” (we’ll get to that in a moment), that’s a violation.
  • If they personally go and solicit upon property where one of those Section 5.20.040 signs is posted, that’s the big violation.

Any of the first three of the above violations is punishable by a fine of up to $250.  But that last one is punishable by a fine of up to $500, and the violator could also end up spending up to thirty days in jail (there are some definite teeth to this ordinance).

There are three exceptions to the ordinance; these are the situations where people get to do things that fall under the definition of “solicitation” but won’t get in trouble for it.  These are:

  • If the person on your porch is a governmental official of some sort, and they’re doing their job.
  • If you’ve somehow invited this person to be on the property.
  • If it’s between 4 PM and 9 PM on October 31st.  ‘Cause trick-or-treaters generally have no idea what “solicitation” even means, and, unlike most solicitors, there’s no expectation that they would.

So you’re probably asking yourself, “So what sort of sign do I need to do this ‘conforming’ thing so the solicitors will leave me alone?”  Well, it’s pretty easy.  Section 5.20.040 says that it’s gotta be a sign that says, “No Solicitation”.  It’s gotta be on or near the boundaries of your property at the normal points of entrance if you have a fence with a gate or something like that (or at your main entrance if you don’t have a gate), and it’s gotta be big enough and clear enough to be obvious and readable to anyone coming into your gate or up your walk.

That’s it!  That’s all you’ve gotta do, and salesmen, pamphleteers, and petitioners should stop bothering you.  If they don’t, call the police with a description of the violator (what they look like and what they’re wearing) and which way they were going.  Just make sure you’ve got a sign properly posted, or the police won’t be able to do a thing about it.

(As a general rule, I tend to give people who seem honestly ignorant of the law a chance to understand why they can’t do what they’re doing, but sometimes people are pushy and get argumentative about it.  So I went ahead and printed up this Solicitation Ordinance sheet. it’s perfect for double-sided printing, lamination, and keeping near the front door as a handy reference you can use to instantly win arguments about why the person on your porch really needs to knock it off and leave you alone.)

I hope that helps clear things up.  If you’d like to read the text of the law itself, to see where I may have led you astray (I recommend it!), please head over to our Municipal Code and select “Title 5 BUSINESS LICENSES AND REGULATIONS” in the left-hand column.  When that opens up, choose “Chapter 5.20 SOLICITATION” and it’ll appear on the right.  (You can read the rest of our ordinances at that site as well; it’s a handy reference.)

(One last note: I have encountered local members of one particular religious denomination who mistakenly believe that some mysterious Supreme Court case gives them the right to ignore Cottage Grove’s solicitation ordinance.  This is absolutely untrue; it’s nothing more than a conveniently self-serving urban myth.  If anyone tries to tell you that they get to ignore your sign based on some “freedom of religion” case, please invite them to contact me.  I’ll be happy to walk them through the important difference between what they think the Supreme Court said, and what the Supreme Court actually said.)

— Jake

Addendum: A Little Bit More about Utilities

Since the last post, I’ve gathered a few more specific details about the way the non-“improvement” portion of our City utility bills are calculated, and a bit of information on assisted utility rates.  Standard disclaimer applies.

These numbers all assume you’re a residential customer inside Cottage Grove city limits and your meter is either a 5/8″ or 3/4″ size.  (If you want information on commercial or out-of-town rates, etc., please call the City.)

First, a note on meters.  The vast majority of homes in Cottage Grove have a 5/8″ or 3/4″ meter, and the water rates are the same for both.  A few homes have 1″ meters, and the fixed costs are higher for those, because that means the City must provide more standing capacity for those homes.  Your meter size is based on the number of fixtures (sinks, toilets, sprinkler heads, etc.) you have attached to the system, because you could, if you wanted to, activate all of them at once.  If you have a 1″ meter and you, say, rip out a bathroom you’re not using or otherwise eliminate some fixtures, you can let the City know and get your meter downsized to take advantage of the cheaper rates for smaller meters.  Anyway…


Assuming something smaller than a 1″ meter, your fixed costs on the water (i.e. the cost to deliver the water to you) total out to $16.44 per month.

Your variable costs (i.e. the cost of the water itself), on the other hand, change based on how much you consume:

  • 1-5999 gallons: $1.31 per 1000 gallons (or around a penny for every 7.6 gallons).
  • 6000 – 15000 gallons: $1.60 per 1000 gallons (or around a penny for every 6.25 gallons).
  • 15001+ gallons: $1.88 per 1000 gallons (or around a penny for every 5.3 gallons).

The change in rate is the incentive to conserve.  It’s not a huge incentive, but it’s there.

Waste Water

For waste water, there’s a $7.28 fixed cost, and a variable rate of $3.74 per 100 gallons (about 2.7 gallons per penny).  Pretty straightforward.

There’s no incentive to conserve here, because we really don’t want people trying to save money by storing in closets and crawlspaces what they would otherwise flush down a toilet.  ‘Cause, you know, eww.

Storm Drain

Assuming you don’t have some weirdness going on at your home, like a helipad or a parking lot, you’re going to pay $3.37 for storm drains (regardless of the number of gallons that nature dumps on your property each month).

There’s no incentive to conserve here, either, because we know you have little say over how much rain a given cloud is going to drop.  (If you manage to build a weather-control ray, on the other hand, please do let us know; we can put you in touch with several local festivals who’d probably like to rent it on an annual basis.)

Assisted Rates

There are a few situations that make a household eligible for “assisted rates”, which constitute a modest reduction in your bill.  These situations are:

If you are a single individual, you must be:

  • Over 65 years of age.
  • Living alone.
  • Own no real property other than the home.
  • Total household income must be under $1265.00 per month.

If you are an elderly couple or a single elderly with dependent:

  • One member of the couple or the head of household must be over 65 years of age.
  • Own no real property other than the home.
  • Total household income must be under $1705.00 per month.

If you are a totally disabled person, you must:

  • Be recognized as being totally disabled by the Social Security Administration or Worker’s Compensation.
  • Own no real property other than the home.
  • Total household income must be under $1705.00 per month.

If you fall into any of these categories, you are invited to stop by City Hall to pick up an Application for Assisted Rates form (ask at the front counter for all the details).

— Jake